A mass merchant shopper engagements study by POPAI found that 82% of shoppers make their purchasing decisions in-store. With ever-multiplying products vying for consumers’ attention, gaining prominence on supermarket shelves is paramount.
So how can food-makers use packaging to maximize product appeal and steer those impromptu choices?
Research shows that see-through packaging can improve shoppers’ perception of a product. In fact, Mintel’s Food Packaging Trends 2014 report says that 54% of shoppers see product visibility as important.
As Peter Ettridge,product development manager at Amcor Flexibles, said: “Visibility creates a stage for the product to sell itself, rather than having images do the job.”
This is especially relevant when it comes to snacks. A glimpse of the product can entice shoppers to buy a treat, or attract them to a product that looks appetizing over one they can’t see.
A healthy view
Consumers increasingly favor healthy food: in the US, 60% of Boomers choose foods based on their desire to manage specific health conditions. Millennials focus on ‘free-from’ and other attributes they associate with healthy eating.
These attitudes are reflected in sales statistics: sales of products positioned as healthy are outpacing growth across the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) category.
By revealing color, shape and texture, clear packaging can help discerning shoppers assess health claims. Think smoothies with visible separation or naturally dark, unsulphured dried apricots.
In addition, according to the Mintel report, 30% of shoppers judge freshness by appearance, not use-by-date. And freshness is associated with healthiness.
This added transparency may in turn raise confidence in the brand. “It acts as a visual cue around quality, taking consumer trust to a new level,” said Ettridge.
Food-makers need clear packaging solutions that create visibility while preserving and, ideally, extending shelf-life.
As sensitivities to light, heat, moisture and oxygen vary by product, the freedom to choose between different levels and types of protection is essential.
When products are on show, it’s crucial that they’re 100% intact, so packaging must also be highly resistant to damage during manufacturing and distribution.
In the past, transparent options lacked the high protection offered by aluminium. Ettridge, who is an expert on clear barrier technologies such as the one behind Amcor’s AmLite high-barrier material, said: “Traditional wisdom equates foil with freshness, but consumer perceptions are shifting. The appearance of the product itself is now key.”
The latest barrier layers mean that clear packaging can now match and even exceed the protection offered by foil. They can be used for pasteurized or retort products, and those that are prone to oxidization, like nuts.
Transparent materials sometimes create difficult decisions about how to incorporate printed messages and core branding elements.
With instant recognition playing a big role in in-store decisions, packaging revamps need to achieve a balance between differentiating and maintaining the brand.
Window designs can help food-makers get around this issue, while minimizing light exposure. Clear plastic with cardboard is popular for products like biscuits and granola. Plastic pouches that combine clear and opaque, printed areas in a seamless design are perfect for nuts and seeds.
Printing on metal-free materials brings an added visual benefit: whites are brighter and colors punchier.
A window of opportunity
Switching to clear packaging calls for careful consideration. Sometimes products need to be modified; others just aren’t suited to being on display.
Ettridge said: “Freedom in terms of design is important, from a package that’s 95% transparent to one that shows just 5% of the product.”
Micro-thin, metal-free films are making see-through formats more flexible and affordable. Invisible to the consumer, they’re at the heart of many transparent designs.
They can raise shelf life from days to months, reducing food waste. Because they’re metal-free, they’re ideal for microwaveable snacks. They also allow screening using a metal detector.
Lighter than foil-based options, these solutions also cut material use and CO2 emissions, helping companies demonstrate the eco-friendly ethos that consumers increasingly seek.
It’s clear that transparent packaging is favored by shoppers. Barrier technologies are making it a viable option for a wider range of products, with broad technical and aesthetic benefits.